Caution: this post contains graphic references to meat.
As you may have gathered from the Laundry Post, our household takes on the domestic arts at a large scale. Not only do the males scorn the dirtying of just a few socks or T-shirts, one of them also convinced me that we should buy some meat. Direct from a farmer, on the hoof, a cow and a pig. It's so much cheaper that way, plus we know the farmer. It's grass fed! This means that I should have delayed that post of Red Things, until after we got the 700 pounds of meat. (Yes, that is, by volume, at least a hogshead (maybe two?) and a bit more than 2/3 of a ton!)
Not very photogenic is it? Don't worry, I'm not going to turn this into a meat blog, but I have been spending a lot of time reading meat blogs trying to figure out what to do with two pork bellies and about 40 pounds of soup bones that we couldn't squeeze into a freezer. Interestingly, most meat blogs are written by men. Men who scorn archaic forms of measurements in their recipes for pancetta. This means I have been spending hours scribbling conversions from ounces to grams, and grams to pounds, and ounces to teaspoons and cursing our whole system of weights and measures and thinking perhaps it might not be so very un-American after all to convert to the metric system. I didn't know, but the whole pints, quarts, gallons, bushels, hogsheads and firkins up to the ton system is based on the ounce, which is--get this--a "mouthful." Yes, our system is based on mouthful units. I can't decide if this is brilliant or disgusting, but thinking about it makes me feel very full.
Thanks be to the weather gods, it has been below freezing most of the week, so our front porch has been turned into a meat locker for the overflow. It's very difficult to rent cold storage these days, plus it's just so classy to meet your house guests with the sights and smells of a butcher shop.
There has been one especially bright spot in all this and that is that I got to go on a quest for a strange ingredient. Sometimes I feel that internet shopping has turned those once rare and difficult to find things into what my son calls "plain old." The thrill of hunting down an elusive item is just not that exciting when it is too easy. But, I needed curing salt for my pancetta and I was too impatient to order it, so I had to call around to all the butcher shops in the area that still make their sausages. Finally, I connected with a butcher at Everett's who told me to come on over.
I knew I was in the right place, because Everett's hasn't changed much from the 1960's, except that the flat bread section has expanded from just lefse, to lefse, tortillas and Injera. And the butcher was an old guy! I adore old guys. Not only did he sell me a container of pink salt for $1.50, I got a tour of the shop. They have a huge sooty smokehouse in the shop. I got to peek in and see sausages hanging over piles of smoldering sawdust! They have a brining vat for corned beef! I got samples of their own lunch meats! I got a verbal recipe for bacon! I got proportional information of curing salt to meat in pounds and ounces (4 oz. per 100 pounds of beef, in case you are interested.) I would have taken photos, but I always feel like a jerk taking pictures in public places.
The pancetta and bacon are now curing. The beef stock is cooling so I can remove the fat. Friends have helped me empty the porch of meat. I have stopped shuffling meat cuts around. Tonight my husband made steak ou poivre served with tater tots. I'm not sure the French would approve of that combo, but it is fabulous. I did notice the kids were less excited than I. I heard something about the meat being chewy and "too beefy." Hmm, we could have a problem.